Mask making has been an integral part of my artistic process for more than 20 years.
The masks that have evolved into the Soul Ancestors came to me in a series of dreams many, many years ago when I was living in Colorado and just beginning my artistic and spiritual journey. In the dreams I was walking through an aspen grove when I came to a clearing filled with women, each wearing a mask. Each mask was like a tiny universe, woven and feathered and embellished with its own headdress. As I joined the women, one of them slid a mask over my face as she explained why she had created it for me. She said "Never give away your power or hide your gifts from the world. This mask will open a window into your soul where you can discover your own personal mythology. Your tribe is waiting for you but you will have to journey far to find them."
And journey far I have through both my internal and external landscapes since I first had those dreams. One thing has remained constant throughout the years though and that is the power of the masks to draw me back home.
Each Soul Ancestor explores the importance of change and the need to release our past in order to experience personal growth, empowerment, and transformation. Imagery borrowed from indigenous cultures, mythology, fairytales, Tarot, and the use of archetypal themes allows me to explore letting go of the familiar, safe, and secure in order to travel to the dark, often frightening, places of the soul that hide beneath the surface of each of us... hidden beneath the mask each of us wears every day. The imagery requires a level of introspection… an inward journey and willingness to face both the positive and negative aspects of life. As a result, the process of creation becomes an excavation of self. What should remain visible? What should be hidden from view? How do our experiences and cultures control our perceptions? What impact do these perceptions have on our views of reality and illusion? Through my art I want the viewer to question, explore, and ultimately discover their own truth.
Ritual is an integral part of the creative process for each Soul Ancestor. I begin by selecting a Tarot card to use as the focal point for my meditation session. The card selected may represent a single work of art or an entire series. Out of the session comes the theme, imagery, colors, textures, focal objects, and embellishments that provide my starting point. And sometimes inspiration comes from simple everyday experiences... the patches of color seen on the side of a mountain in the autumn... the smell of roasting chilis at the local farmers' market... a visit by a friendly dragonfly bringing me a message.
Great care is taken in selecting the objects to be used in creating each Soul Ancestor. Vintage wooden clock cases, handmade paper, fibers and yarns, hand-dyed fabrics, dichroic glass, digital images, monoprints, collagraphs, etchings, vintage postcards and photographs, ephemera, weavings, embroidery, beads, bones, crystals and stones, found objects, and feathers are just a few of the objects that have found their way home to their Soul Ancestor after singing their song to me. Some objects remain visible while others become fragmented, distorted, veiled, or buried. The resulting piece is complex and multi-layered in the same way life is complex and multi-layered. True understanding comes with the ability and willingness to envision what is below the surface.